Saturday 10 December 2016

James Downey: Too much at stake to risk return of mass emigration

Published 24/12/2011 | 05:00

CHRISTMAS is a good time to think about the emigrants, and we have plenty of them to think about. Everybody in the country has close relations abroad, of whom, sadly, vast numbers have left lately.

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Only a small proportion of them will bring to their lips that lovely phrase "home for Christmas!" That always was the way. Those who came home at all, came home in the summer. Any midwinter influx to villages and small farms was of young people lucky enough to have jobs in Ireland, mostly in the public service.

In the post-Famine period, and down almost to our own time, most emigrants never expected to see their native land again. The "American wake" was an institution, marked, like a real wake, by much laughter and more tears.

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